Web Analytics Trust People (once an Englishman in Philly): Final fragmentation of secondary education... RIP the gold standard

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Final fragmentation of secondary education... RIP the gold standard

I am deeply concerned by these proposals for secondary education. There are some developments to be welcomed but I do not see why the GCSE and A-Level system needs to be subsumed within some overarching certificate. It seems to me that it will be nigh on impossible to meaningfully determine between students on the basis of this certificate and that the path through them will be so vague as to render much comparison fairly pointless.

"There would be recognition for wider activities like community service, Duke of Edinburgh awards and even sport."

Why should academic prowess not be measured in a separate and distinct way, but not necessarily more valued, than sport? Why mix the two together? They are different but should be equally respected. It should not be for the Government to step in and to tell potential employers that for them to consider whether someone took an academic/vocational/sporting route is not a decision for them to make.

Another grave concern I have is that the need for externally marked exams will soon disappear, so that teachers mark all exam papers and work out 'credits' for the diploma. All hope of standards and standardisation will finally be extinguished.

Here is the Trust People simplified six-point guide to success:
-Scrap AS Levels
-Make A Levels and GCSE more demanding again. If they do not ensure that students getting good grades have the requisite basic skills introduce a skills paper instead of coursework as one paper.
-Make vocational qualifications less fragmented. Bring in a single recognisable qualification which can be achieved in different subjects.
-Introduce a vocational gap year at fourteen to enable young people to learn something of a trade, to learn something of the fabric which makes up society and to have a renewed sense of the worth of their work when they return to school.
-When it comes to marking of exam scripts there should be a minimum percentage who will fall within each grade boundary (set fairly low) and also a substantive mark which candidates would be expected to meet on each paper to achieve each grade. If more than the minimum percentage beat that mark then they would take the higher grade, if less than the minimum percentage beat it then a smaller number of candidates would get the higher grade. This would hopefully knock grade inflation on the head.
-Scrap public exams earlier than GCSE. Let schools help their children develop: if parents and children want a school with exams then schools would be free to set their own internal annual tests.

Not content with this retrogrssive step though we are also seeing genuine and further fragmentation of the exam system. How can employers hope to compare across boundaries? The Union quivers...

The Tories may be too keen to practice 'new politics' to attack this at this stage but I, fortunately, am not! The argument that anything is better than the current system must be treated with the same response as the Government's suggestion that it was somehow being virtuous in abolishing the 'disgraceful' up-front fees for University: it's your fault, mate.


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